George I.—For the King over the Water
Queen Anne died in 1714 a.d. She was the last of the Stewarts. The last of the long line of kings who had sat upon the throne of Scotland for nearly four hundred years. She was succeeded, as had been arranged, by George, Elector, or King of Hanover, who was the great grandson of James vi.
King George was fifty-five when he came to the throne. He was a thorough German, and could speak no English. Although he had known for some years that he would one day be King of Britain, he had taken no trouble to learn the English language, nor did he trouble to do so after he came to the throne.
King George was allowed to take possession of the throne quietly, but there were many people, both in England and in Scotland, who did not give up the hope of once more having a Stewart to reign over them. Queen Anne's brother James, who was called the Pretender, was living in France, "over the water." When the King's health was drunk, the Jacobites, as the people who clung to the Stewart cause were called, would pass their glasses over the water-jug, silently drinking, not to the king upon the throne, but to the king over the water. They wore white cockades or rosettes, which was the badge of the Pretender, and here and there the people of a town or village would pluck up courage and proclaim King James viii. But no one paid much attention to these doings, and it was not until George i. had been upon the throne about a year that a rebellion broke out.
This rebellion is called "The '15," because it took place in 1715 a.d.
One of the chief Jacobite leaders was the Earl of Mar. He, pretending that he was going to have a great hunting party, invited many of the Highland chieftains to his house. But it was only a pretence. Having gathered the chiefs together, Mar made a speech to them, begging them to fight for their true king. And there, in a lonely Highland glen, the standard of the Pretender was set up, and amid cheers and shouts James viii. was proclaimed.
As the banner fluttered out on the breeze the golden ball fell from the top of the pole. This frightened the Highlanders very much, for they thought it was a sign of bad luck. But in spite of this, men flocked to the standard, and soon Mar found himself at the head of an army of nine or ten thousand men.
King George too gathered an army, which, under the Duke of Argyll, marched against the Jacobites. At a place called Sheriffmuir the two forces met. Mar had far more soldiers than Argyll, and if he had attacked at once, he might have swept Argyll from the field. But Mar was not a good general. Instead of attacking Argyll he called a council of war.
"Shall we fight or not?" he asked.
"Fight, fight," cried the Highlanders.
So Mar agreed to fight, and when the soldiers heard the news they threw their bonnets in the air and shouted for joy.
The Highlanders were fiercely brave, but they needed a leader, such a leader as Mar was not. "Oh for an hour of Dundee!" cried one of the chieftains when he saw how things were mismanaged and opportunities lost. Gallant Montrose, or cruel, proud Dundee, would have led them to victory. But the battle of Sheriffmuir was neither a victory nor a defeat, for while one half of Mar's army routed Argyll's men, the other half ran away, and both sides claimed the victory.
"If we have not gained a victory," said one chieftain, "we ought to fight Argyll once a week till we make it one."
But Mar did not fight. He waited, and day by day his army became weaker, for the Highlanders, growing disgusted at doing nothing, went home again. Day by day Argyll's army grew stronger.
In the Lowlands of Scotland and in the north of England the Jacobites also rose. But they too had no wise leader, and almost without a struggle they laid down their arms again. Many of the chief rebels were taken prisoner and sent to the Tower of London, and one of them, Lord Derwentwater, was afterwards beheaded for his share in the rising.
And all this time the Jacobites were fighting and rebelling for a man that they had never seen, for James remained in France. But at last he came to Scotland, and the hearts of the Highlanders rose again.
"Now," they said, "we will live more like soldiers. Now we will be led to battle instead of mouldering away doing nothing."
But they were soon disappointed. James was no soldier. He was handsome, cold, and grave. He never smiled, and hardly ever spoke, so that even his followers called him "Old Mr. Melancholy." This was not the kind of king that the Highlanders had expected. "Can he speak at all?" they asked angrily, and although he was brave enough, they began to think that he was a coward.
"Why did the King come?" they asked.
"Was it to see his subjects butchered like dogs, without striking a blow for their lives and honour?"
"If he is willing to die like a Prince, he will find ten thousand men in Scotland ready to die with him."
James had not come with any very great hopes, and now he was disappointed to find his army so small. He grew more and more gloomy, and when he heard that Argyll was marching upon him he burst into tears. "Weeping," said a friend when he heard of it, "is not the way to conquer kingdoms."
Weeping was not the way to conquer kingdoms, and neither was James of the stuff of which conquerors are made. He gave it up. He ran away to France, taking with him the Earl of Mar, and leaving the men who had risked everything in his cause leaderless and despairing. "King James viii. " had been in his country just six weeks.
When the Jacobites heard that their King had deserted them, they were filled with grief and anger. In disgust and despair they threw away their arms, and scattering as quickly as they had gathered, they fled, some back to their homes, to their wild glens and mountains, others to the Orkney Isles, and from there to France. The rebellion was over.